Myanmar

Myanmar, also called Burma, was until recently a highly locked-up military dictatorship. Hard to get in, hard to get out. It’s now changing rapidly. Yangon, the largest city, is changing at a breackneck pace. Just now emerging from its time capsule, it’s full of beautiful but very dilapidated colonial architecture. Life happens on the street, there are few traditional shops, and the usual brands like Coca Cola, Wall’s ice cream, and McDonalds are completely absent, one of the very few places in the world where this is the case. On the other hand, streets are packed with cars; there are no motorcycles and almost no bicycles, and no modern public transportation system. The place is headed for a traffic collapse.

People are friendly and curious, always ready to smile and chat, even in this big city of about six million  (nobody knows exactly). People do speak a few words of English and that’s enough. Even children, one boy was trying to pimp! A society in upheaval… Normally I like street food but I have avoided it here because the stalls set up on the broken sidewalks seem unusually dirty. Everywhere in southeast Asia people prefer to fix broken things for decades, instead of throwing them away at the first sign of wear like we do, but here it seems they have to make do with equipment dating back to Napoleon. But in general, Yangon is a lot more developed, and modernizing much more rapidly, than I expected.

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